Sunday, 29 April 2012
The Origins of Sex by Faramerz Dabhoiwala
I was excited about starting this book as I'm usually a big fan of social history. I was instantly hooked by the descriptions of attitudes towards sex in the 1600s, of men and women hanged and beaten for engaging in adultery or pre-marital sex. The idea of sex as part of public life, policed by the community rather than something private seems so foreign to us now.
Dabhoiwala then goes on to explain how attitudes changed. There are four main arguments made throughout the course of the book; that the breakdown of religious authority led to people being allowed to have contrasting views, that the Enlightenment made society more liberal, that women started to have a public voice for the first time and that mass media publicised sex and made celebrities out of famous mistresses. All these factors meant that sex came to be seen as something private, not something to be policed by the legal system or by members of the community.
I found the arguments convincing and the subject matter fascinating but unfortunately reading this book was a struggle. The same arguments were repeated over and over again, just with the use of different examples. I know Dabhoiwala had completed an impressive amount of research, but I don't think the reader needs to hear about all of it in order to appreciate the arguments. The tone of the writing is also very academic and dry and I don't think I would have finished the book if I hadn't agreed to provide a review for it. It's just a shame as the subject is so interesting but yet the writing makes it less so, by the time I was half way through I was wanting to move on to something else.
Verdict: Fascinating subject matter but hard to get through.
Source: From the publisher via NetGalley
Published: 1st May 2012
Score: 2.5 out of 5
City of Sin by Catharine Arnold - History of prostitution in London.